What possesses a veteran mechanech to do a 180-degree turn and become Montreal’s very own Willy Wonka? As head chocolatier and owner of Excellence Chocolate Company in Canada, David Bensabath is here to solve you cocoa conundrums.

David in 60 Seconds: Birthplace: I was born in Morocco and grew up in Strasbourg, France. We are now three generations in Montreal. Meal longed for: How I can still taste the baguettes and mille-feuilles my uncle used to bake in his shop in Safi, Morocco! Culinary roots: French Jewish Boy Scouts provided me with cooking experience. Seasonal business stress: Pulling all-nighters before Purim. We close at 4 a.m. and then wake up for Shacharis. Daily Invigoration: What a zechus I have to live in close proximity to my family. I get up to daven early so that I can take my grandchildren to school every day. That experience is sweeter than any praline. Expanded repertoire: Friends and family show up Shabbos to taste my exotic salads.

So, no easy transition into retirement for you?

Well, in 1989 I was approached by a colleague of mine to go visit a chocolate factory of a Belgian chocolatier. I was enamored with the quality of the product. Then and there I proposed to start a strictly kosher line of this quality Belgian chocolate. I began working with them, making pareve chocolates, and sometimes doing a chalov Yisrael run, then kashering the machine back. In the beginning I used to have to wake up by 5 a.m. to start the machines at the factory. We had a separate room, under lock and key. Being a teacher and selling chocolate was a difficult balance between keeping my daily schedule and answering to all the chocolate calls when I came home from work. I was on 24/6. I’d get calls until late at night since the business side was based out of my home. People called my house last minute for a Motzaei Shabbos l’chayim since they knew I was available. Around four years ago the golden opportunity arrived. I was already retired after 44 years of teaching and the current owners were ready to retire themselves. Excellence Chocolate was mine to upgrade.

You undertook a new business JUST as you were enjoying retirement? Why?

What better way to help the children have a parnassah than to start a family business? (Let’s me see them more too…)

Did your children step up to the plate?

They all did. My son Baruch had been working 12 years in hashgachah with high-end food businesses in France. He began training with the previous chocolatier, and furthered his education in the chocolate academy perfecting his skills. One thing he learned was adding teas, spices, and fresh fruit pureés to achieve different flavors. His mission was to perfect our techniques. He met a renowned chocolatier from Belgium, a man commissioned to make chocolate for the White House! My son asked him to be his mentor. This chocolatier tasted our chocolate he said, “I have nothing to teach you.” He didn’t even believe they were pareve.

Is there such a thing as loving chocolate too much?

I had a client that brought a large platter to a vort in someone’s house. The mechuteneste saw the chocolate on the table and tasted a piece. She then took the entire platter up to her room and didn’t bring it out for simchah. I found out later she kept it on her nightstand till it was finished. Another man told me he bought his wife a box of milk chocolate and left it by his tallis zekel. The next morning it was gone. When he asked her she said, “I was fleishig last night so I woke at 3:30 a.m. to eat it.”

What’s a big misconception in chocolate?

Pralines are not just a filling flavor, but the type of filled chocolate. In the States you might call it a truffle. Belgian pralines can have all types of fillings, ganaches, etc.

There are so many choices, which are the most requested?

The liquid-smooth truffle with a pure praline almond hazelnut is the most popular. Then there's the one that's a little more firm. It has chocolate added and that is called gianduja, sometimes we add a whole nut to it, or small pieces of candied almonds or hazelnut that add a crunch that's called Brésilienne. In a typical box, there are always two of each flavor. After all, sharing is caring.

Any unusual requests?

We always take custom orders. One chassan asked us to create a hollow chocolate egg to put the engagement ring in to propose. I hope she didn’t eat it.